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afternoons & coffeespoons

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Rachel’s at Central Perk flipping through a back-issue of People while Joey makes eyes at the brunette sitting by the front door. “You’re totally gonna ask her out, aren’t you?”

“How long have you known me, Rach?” He scribbles his phone number on the back of Hot Brunette’s check.

She shakes her head. “At least you’re consistent.”

Joey chuckles and steps away from the counter to talk to his potential date. Hot Brunette smiles as he approaches her. “You make a great iced mocha,” she says, sucking the left-over whip off of her straw.

“Thanks!” He grins, places her check phone-number-side up on the table. “If you want another one, just gimme a call.”

She glances down, and her ruby lips pull into a smirk. “I think I will.” She reaches into her purse and hands him a business card, laying down a five-dollar bill while he reads the card.

“I hope you do, Janine.” He gives her a full-wattage smile. Blood pools beneath her cheeks as she takes the check.

“See ya, Joey.” She slinks out the door, and Joey can’t help but watch her walk away until Rachel clears her throat loudly

Joey goes back behind the counter, stuffing Janine’s card into the back pocket of his jeans. Rachel scoffs a laugh. “Did you take this job as an excuse to get women’s numbers?”

Joey gives a half-hearted shrug. “I don’t need an excuse, Rach, but if the shoe fits...”

Rachel takes a sip of her drink—iced caramel macchiato, skim milk—and asks, “So, what’s her name?”

“Janine,” Joey says with a goofy smile. He can’t help it; he’s a sucker for brunettes. He shoves a strawberry smoothie into the blender for the blonde at the next table—but he saw the glintz of her ring immediately when he got her order.

“You think she’ll be charmed or creeped out that you live with a duck?”

“Well, the last chick I brought home thought it was sorta weird.”

“Is that why you dumped her?”

Joey makes a “kinda” hand gesture. When he comes back from delivering the smoothie, he asks Rachel, “You wanna do somethin’ this weekend? Maybe see a movie?”

“Why don’t you go with Janine?” Rachel says in a way that Joey thinks is mocking him.

“I had somethin’ else in mind for her.”

Rachel makes a face. “Sorry, Joey, I’m all booked up this weekend. It’s my anniversary, remember? Monica’s taking me to a bed and breakfast in Vermont.”

“Vermont? What’s in Vermont?” Joey’s not even sure he knows where Vermont is.

“The moonlight boat ride!” Rachel says, with feeling. At Joey’s disappointed expression, she adds, “Call up Ross. See if he wants to hang out.”

“I already did. He’s takin’ Ben to some museum.” Joey tries not to scowl at his friends’ eventful lives, but he’s in his thirties and still a bachelor while Rachel and Monica and Ross have all have careers and families to go home to. Even Phoebe’s starting to drift away since she started dating some guy named Mike; he seems nice, but Joey misses the tight bond of camaraderie they used to have.

“Sounds like you need a boyfriend,” Rachel teases. “Why don’t I set you up with my assistant at Ralph Lauren? His name’s Tag, and I don’t think he has any guy friends. You could take him to ball game or something.”

Joey sighs. “I dunno, Rach. I mean, c’mon, the guy’s name’s Tag. I really doubt we’re gonna have anything in common.”

Rachel digs through her purse and hands Joey a photograph. “Do you at least think he’s cute? He’s the one next to me with the dark hair.”

Joey takes a closer look. “What’s with your face in this picture?”

Rachel scowls at him. “I was a little drunk. It was my office New Year’s party, gimme a break!”

Joey’s mouth presses into a line. “Is he workin’ there for a high school internship or somethin’? He looks twelve.”

Rachel snatches the photo from him and stuffs it back into her purse. “Okay, fine, so he’s not your type. And, no, he’s not in high school—”

Joey doesn’t hear the rest of Rachel’s lecture, because someone walks into the coffee shop who is exactly Joey’s type, and, oh man, Joey cannot stop staring.

“Earth to Joey,” Rachel says, waving a hand in front of his face; Joey blinks in startled surprise. “Who are you violating with your eyes?” Joey wets his lips—because he’s still looking, goddammit—and gestures to the cute guy sitting by the window. “The dork in the sweatervest?” Joey nods. “With the glasses and the notepad?” Another nod. Rachel just makes a face at Joey as if to say, “Really?” but his big, wide puppy-dog eyes make her smile. “Well, what’re you waiting for? Go over there. It’s not like you need a reason.”

Joey feels a brief moment of panic. There’s so much macho pretense involved with other men, and Joey doesn’t have the same confidence here like he does with women. Men seem to think their entire sexual identity is threatened when another man flirts with them. They get angry, they get defensive in a desperate attempt to protect their “manhood” that wasn’t even under threat in the first place. And Joey’s still not totally comfortable with his attraction to the same sex; he’s getting there, but he’d rather not give some over-defensive dude-bro the chance to make him feel like he’s wired wrong.

He tugs at the collar of his shirt, looks away. “Oh my God,” Rachel gasps, “you’ve never flirted with a guy before?”

“Well, Ross, but that doesn’t count,” Joey mumbles. “I’ve never actually been serious. I just do it to freak him out.”

Rachel chuckles and glances over at Joey’s Dreamy Nerd. “He seems like he might be into guys. He has a”—she searches for the word—“quality.”

“Oh, gee, that’s helpful.”

“What’s the big deal? You hit on women all the time!”

“It’s different,” Joey whines, leaning on the counter to be nearer to her. “How would you feel if you and Monica were total strangers, and she came in while you were workin’ here?”

Rachel gives this a moment of thought. “I’d at least ask if I could get her a cup of coffee.”

Joey takes another quick look at Cute Dork, swallows back a huge lump in his throat.

“Joey, that’s your job. Trust me, he’s not gonna be offended. And, y’know what? If some guy freaks out ‘cause you think he’s cute, he’s probably a piece of crap you don’t wanna date anyway.”

Joey inhales deeply, hoping the extra oxygen will give him a burst of uncharacteristic courage, before walking around the counter. It’s less than ten steps to the table by the window, but it feels like three, because Joey’s arrived before he can properly rehearse in his head. Cute Dork looks up as Joey approaches, and, holy fucking shit, he’s got the widest, brightest blue eyes Joey’s ever seen.

Joey feels his mouth go dry when he asks, “Uh, h—hi, what can I get ya?” Smooth.

“Vanilla latte, extra cream.”

Joey’s brain doesn’t know what the fuck to focus on first here: Cute Dork has a cute voice to match, the fact that he likes, uh, extra cream, or that his entire mouth area is so ridiculously kissable. His lips are thin, parted just enough to give Joey a glimpse of his front teeth, and now Joey can’t stop thinking about how he might look with his bottom lip caught between those teeth, his legs hooked over Joey’s shoulders as—

Joey stops that train of thought immediately. “Comin’ right up,” he manages with a smile. Cute Dork flashes a quick smile back, and Joey could write actual poetry about the way his smile reaches his eyes.

When Joey gets back to the counter, Rachel’s grinning at him expectantly. “So? How’d it go?”

“He’s even hotter up close!” Joey whines while fixing the latte. He remembers to use latte milk this time, because last time Monica yelled at him for using skim (“She can totally tell!” Rachel had warned him), and he cannot make a shitty first impression here. His drink-preparing skills are crucial. “He’s got blue eyes; that’s, like, my favorite color!”

“I thought your favorite color was red.”

“Well, nobody has red eyes,” Joey scoffs, like it’s ridiculous. “Except maybe vampires...or that guy in those eyedrops commercials.”

“Are you gonna write your number in the foam?” she teases.

Joey rolls his eyes. “Very funny, Rach. You know it won’t fit.”

“Maybe you could draw a little heart on top with some chocolate syrup?”

“Maybe I don’t wanna get punched in the face! I’m an actor—my looks are all I got.”

Rachel glances over at Cute Dork again. “He doesn’t look like he has much upper-body strength.”

“You think he’s waitin’ for somebody?” Joey asks. “Like, a date?”

“Joey, he brought a notepad,” Rachel says flatly, like that explains everything. “He’s either writing an English essay, or he’s one of those snobby novelists who likes to write in public.”

“He could have a cool job!” Joey shoots back, pouting a little. “Maybe he’s, like, an artist or something—” He stops mid-sentence, because Cute Dork’s got the end of his pen shoved in his mouth, and Joey cannot look away. He’s never envied an inanimate object so much in his entire life.

Rachel has to look too. “Somebody’s got an oral fixation,” she teases.

Joey scrunches up his face. “Shut up.” He pouts at Rachel one more time—because he can—and steels himself to deliver the drink to Mr. Hot Lips. Blue-Eyed Cutie beams at him when Joey sets the mug down. There’s a fair amount of steam rising from the mug. “Careful,” Joey warns, “it’s hot.” Like you.

He’s really glad that thought stayed in his head.

Hot Nerd smirks and lifts the cup to his mouth. “Wow, okay, you’re right. That’s hot. That’s extremely hot.”

Joey rubs the back of his neck, his heart doing some sort of panicked flail in his chest. He’s definitely lost points here. “You, uh, you want me to make another?”

Hot Dork smiles in a way that corkscrews right through Joey’s heart. “Nah, it’s okay. I like my coffee belching smoke like the forges of Isengard.”

Joey laughs, because with the way Mr. Cute Smile is smirking it’s obvious that was a joke, but he’s not sure what’s being referenced. There’s no way this guy’s gonna peg him for an idiot this early though. “If you change your mind, just lemme know.” Joey flashes him a quick, friendly smile before making his way over to the counter. Rachel’s watching him with curious eyes, and Joey groans out, “Forget it, he’s all smart.”

Her hopeful expression falls a little. “What? Aw, c’mon, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be up for a roll in the hay. You’re not exactly bad-looking.”

Joey shrugs. “I dunno, I don’t think that’s what I want.”

“You don’t have to—” Rachel starts, before her pager buzzes and interrupts her train of thought. She checks the number. “Oh, Monica must be home! She’s gonna be pissed that I still haven’t finished packing.” She looks at Joey. “Would you whip up that raspberry thing she likes? I might need a peace offering.”

“Raspberry, toffee, and crème?”

“Yeah, that’s it! Thanks!” She hands him a couple bills while he mixes the drink in the blender. “And, hey, just give him a brownie or something on the house.”

Gunther’s already had a stern conversation with him about giving away free merchandise to hot girls. Of course, Joey could always take it out of his paycheck, but he’s not working here because he’s made of money. But he’s not going to bum Rachel out with his stupid crush and make her worry about him. So he just says, “Yeah, maybe I’ll do that.” He slides Monica’s whipped, pink monstrosity to Rachel. “Thanks.”

“I’ll see you Monday!” Rachel says, grabbing her drink and sashaying out of the café.

Joey’s cleaning out the pastry cabinet a little while later when a familiar, attractive voice at the counter says, “Excuse me?”

Joey flails in a panic, cursing under his breath and bumping his head on the top shelf. He rubs his head and looks up to see Mr. Cute Smile gazing down at him from the other side of the counter. Hot Dork’s mouth does that adorable pinching thing when he laughs. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare ya.” He squints a little, waves a hand over his head. “You, uh, you got some some crumbs up there.”

Joey pushes a hand through his hair and feels his face flush. He’s definitely not winning any points with Mr. Hottie today.

“Guess you’re having a crummy day, huh?”

Joey laughs, elated that he actually gets that one. “Good one! You’re funny.” So this guy is attractive, smart, and funny? Clearly, whoever’s in charge of handing out personality traits must have been asleep on the job come Joey’s turn.

Cute Nerd smiles and looks away for a moment. “I, um, just wanted to get another latte. And—and maybe some cheesecake if you have any?”

Joey immediately looks at the empty pastry case, then feels like the world’s biggest idiot. “Aw, man, I’m sorry, we don’t have any cheesecake.” Mr. Cute Smile still looks cute even while he’s frowning, but it makes Joey sad. “But I can bring you another latte.”

Joey makes a mental note to whip up some of Ma Tribbiani’s Famous Cheesecake when he gets home.

#

Gunther’s looking at Joey with intense judgement the next day as Joey sticks the cheesecake into the fridge in the back room. “You know you’re not allowed to store your lunch in here, right?” Gunther says with an uncalled-for amount of sass.

“It’s not my lunch,” Joey answers a little too defensively, because, okay, maybe he has stored a sub or two in the fridge, but that was ages ago. “It’s for us to sell, y’know, here.”

“It’s kind of against the rules to sell things here that you bought somewhere else—”

“Don’t worry, alright? I made it myself.”

“You—you did?”

“Yeah, I can make things!” He’s not going to mention that he had to call his mother for the recipe. What Gunther doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

It’s almost five thirty when the Hot Nerd from yesterday shows up, looking more attractive in a suit than anyone has a right to be. Joey finds himself licking his lips and thinking about bending him over the bar before a tall, leggy blonde blocks his view of Mr. Sharp-Dressed Man. “Can I get an iced coffee with milk, please?”

He doesn’t even think to check for a ring on her finger as he mixes her drink. Rachel would be proud.

Joey manages to gather up the courage to go over to Cute Dork’s table, earning another winning smile from Mr. Hottie when he approaches. “Hey, you again!”

Joey notices a tantalizing little mole or freckle near the corner of Hot Nerd’s mouth. As if he wasn’t having enough trouble restraining his desire to kiss him. “Yeah, it’s me,” Joey chuckles. “What can I get ya?”

“Caffe mocha, skim milk.”

Joey likes how this guy knows exactly what he wants; he wonders if he might be the same way in bed. This delicious-looking man is teaching Joey so many things he never knew about himself. “You got it.”

He sneaks into the back room while the coffee’s cooling to slice off a piece of cheesecake. When he delivers the drink, he sets the plate down beside it. “Look what I found in the back,” Joey says, feigning total surprise.

Cutie McHotface smiles up at him in a way that makes Joey’s throat a little tight. “Good thing I went skim today.”

#

Joey doesn’t see Mr. Liferuiner—man, he really ought to ask this guy’s name—on Sunday, and Monday evening is slow enough that he can talk to Rachel and Monica and not get yelled at by Gunther. “So how was your trip?” Joey asks.

“Oh, it was great!” Monica says. “The food there was amazing! You would’ve loved it!”

Joey knows he would have, but probably for different reasons than Monica has in mind. “Yeah! That, uh, moonlight boat ride any good?”

“The best!” Monica exclaims.

“You guys get any, y’know, special time?”

Monica glares at him, but Rachel’s sitting behind her, so she can nod and give him a thumbs-up without Monica seeing. Joey grins.

“What about you, Joey? Did your cute nerd show up while I was gone?”

Monica’s wearing a confused smile. “What’re you talking about?”

“Joey has a boyfriend,” Rachel sing-songs.

Joey folds his arms over his chest. “I do not,” he says, sounding disproportionately put out about this. “He’s just a...guy.”

Monica and Rachel exchange looks. “And the Statue of Liberty is just a statue.” Monica scoffs.

“Did you give him your number?”

Joey glances away for a moment. “No, I sorta...chickened out. I mean, he’s smart and funny, and it’s just—it’s just different, okay?”

“Maybe you should try to see if he’s interested,” Monica suggests. “If he shows up again, see if he checks you out or smiles a little too much.”

“You said he’s funny? If he’s making jokes, he obviously wants to impress you,” Rachel says.

Cute Guy makes jokes, and Joey makes a damn cheesecake; he’s not going to mention the cheesecake thing though, because the girls will tease him ruthlessly if they ever knew.

“You should show off your body some more—and see if he notices,” Rachel adds when she sees the way Monica’s glaring at her. “C’mon, I did it when I worked here!”

Monica’s eyes go wide.

“At the very least, you’ll get extra tips.”

“That is so”—Monica searches for the word, settles on—“wrong.”

“I prefer to think of it as making the patriarchy work for me,” Rachel says.

Monica’s still frowning a little when she turns back to Joey. “So what’s his name?”

Joey shrugs. “He didn’t give it.”

“You didn’t ask?” She’s giving him the patented questioning-your-intelligence glare the Gellers have perfected down to a fucking science.

“No.” He squirms in his seat.

“What does he do?”

Another shrug.

“Is he single? Straight? Gay—”

“I’m gettin’ really uncomfortable with these questions!”

“Did you even ask him anything?”

“I asked him what kind of coffee he wanted,” Joey grumbles out. He can feel the weight of their incredulous stares on him, so he adds, “B—but I know he likes my lattes! And cheesecake!” He’s really hoping the girls don’t question that last bit.

They just share a look, like they already fucking know, and, damn it, how do they do that?


#

“I just got my teacher evaluations,” Ross is saying while Joey pretends to listen. His attention’s fixed on the front door of Central Perk, waiting to see if Mr. Cute Smile shows up today. It’s been a couple days since he last stopped by. Joey’s beginning to wonder if he dreamed the whole thing up out of repressed desire and loneliness. “Check out what this one student wrote: ‘I loved Dr. Geller’s class. Mind blowing lectures! Dr. Geller, you are definitely the hottie of the paleontology department!’ Can you believe—I’m sorry, is there something more interesting going on than a 20-year-old college student having a crush on me?”

The bitchy cadence in Ross’s voice snaps Joey out of his trance. “What? Sorry, I was just—starin’.” He chuckles, pushes a hand through his hair. “So, college student, huh? You know who wrote it?”

“I wish I knew, but the evaluations were all anonymous.”

“If you have their final exams, you can match up the handwriting and, boom, you got your admirer.”

Ross looks stunned for a moment, then he smiles. “So you were listening!”

“What if it’s not a girl?” Joey asks, just to fuck with him.

Ross gives him flat eyes. “Of course it’s a girl. But it doesn’t matter anyway, because I’m a teacher and she’s a student.”

“Is that against the rules?”

“No, but—” The rest of Ross’s sentence goes in one ear and out the other, because Hot Guy walks in and, damn, there’s that sweatervest and slacks combo again. Joey tries his best to casually stand up but trips over the rug on the floor. He rights himself before any major humiliation can occur. “Am I really that boring?” Ross asks, glancing in the direction Joey’s heading before doing a double-take. “Chandler Bing?”

Hot Guy turns his head in Ross’s direction, and looks some strange mixture of recognition and surprise. “Ross Geller?”

Holy crap.

Joey stands there in slack-jawed awe while Ross and Chandler—what a stupid fucking name, Joey thinks—hug like long-lost brothers. “What’re you doing here?” Chandler asks Ross, with a cute little quirky smile that Joey wants to kiss away.

“Me? I’m—I’m always here.” Ross laughs. “Except when I’m...not.”

Joey makes a face. At least he’s not as bad at talking to Chandler as Ross is; he takes some solace in that.

“What about you? I haven’t seen you since that Rangers-Penguins game!”

“Has it been that long?”

Joey’s never been the third wheel before; this is a humbling experience for him. He clears his throat a little too loudly, and both heads turn to look at him. Joey gives Ross a pointed look, as if to say, “Introduce me or I’ll set you on fire.”

Ross chuckles nervously, claps a hand on Joey’s shoulder. “Joey, this is my friend Chandler. We went to college together.”

Chandler smiles wide; Joey prays for strength. “Joey, huh? Well, now I finally have a name to put with the face who brings me the best cheesecake I’ve ever tasted.”

Joey beams.

“Oh, you—you two have met?”

“Yeah, this isn’t my first time here,” Chandler says, and there’s a hint of pink to his cheeks that Joey thinks is ridiculously adorable.

Good God, he’s using words like “adorable” non-ironically.

“You made him cheesecake?” Ross hisses. He’s full of questions today.

Joey sort of nudges Ross to the side so he can talk to Chandler. Man, he’s glad he doesn’t have to refer to him by silly monikers anymore. He feels a bit of his usual confidence surge up as he asks, “So, what can I get ya today?”

“Cinnamon crème, double blended.”

“Comin’ right up,” Joey says before Ross practically drags him away to the counter. “Hey, hey, what’re you, jealous?”

Ross gives him a look of disgust while Joey walks behind the counter to throw Chandler’s drink into the blender. “No, I’m not jealous, okay? I’m—I saw the way you looked at him. I know that look. I’ve been on the receiving end of that look, and I don’t like it.”

Joey rolls his eyes. “I know it bothers you, but I’m just playin’ around when I do it with you.”

Ross frowns. “You—you really could have phrased that better. But I know Chandler is not—Chandler isn’t—He likes women.”

“So do I,” Joey says with a shrug.

“He only likes women.”

Joey’s in the middle of topping the drink with whipped cream when he freezes. His shoulders sag a little while he tries to fight off the knee-jerk instinct of disappointment. He knows he shouldn’t be upset, because it’s not like he even knew the guy’s name until just now, not like there was a promise of anything beyond cute smiles and compliments, and then Joey’s just angry for having emotions at all. “I see,” he says. “You, uh, you think he’d freak out if I—if I said anything?”

“Y—yes, yes, definitely,” Ross says, with feeling. “He’s very...Yeah, I wouldn’t go there, Joe. I’m sorry.”

Joey feels his heart in his throat. “Okay, well, thanks, I guess.” He slides the finished drink over to Ross. “Give this to Chandler, would ya? I gotta take a break.”

Ross gives him a sad look before Joey disappears into the back room to lick his wounds.


#

“Okay, nobody should look that angry while they’re hanging up paper hearts,” Phoebe says, standing beside Joey as he’s kneeling down to adorn the bar with ridiculously flamboyant Valentine’s Day decorations. “What’s wrong?”

“Chandler,” Joey grumbles out.

“You mean Ross’s dorky friend?”

“Yeah!”

“The guy you have a sorta-not-so-secret crush on?”

“How do you—?”

“Rachel told me.”

Joey scowls as he tapes more decorations to the counter. “It’s not even a name! It’s barely even a word, okay? It’s kinda like ‘chandelier,’ but it’s not! It’s a stupid, stupid non-name!”

He knows it’s ridiculous to be upset. It’s not like Chandler ever really got a chance to reject him; he’s just not interested in guys—nothing personal. But somehow it still hurts, because Joey’s never crushed this stupidly hard on anyone before, and definitely not before asking the person out. So there’s the thought of what might have been to season the pain.

“What’d he do? Besides have a name.”

“He doesn’t like guys.” Joey cringes at how fucking awful it sounds out loud, like he’s five years old again and some bully stomped on his sand castle.

“Did he tell you that?”

“No, Ross did.”

Phoebe makes a scoffing noise. “So? Ross didn’t know his sister was sleeping with Rachel until they told him—like, a year later! And he couldn’t even tell his own wife was a lesbian! Honey, if you think this guy’s into you, ask him out. Don’t listen to Ross.”

Joey thinks about it for a moment.

Phoebe taps on the glass of the pastry case. “Be flirty and give him one of these red cookies. Y’know, for Valentine’s Day!”

The bell on top of the front door jingles, and Joey instinctively turns his head to look as Chandler strolls in looking absolutely mouth-watering in another suit-and-tie ensemble. Phoebe giggles, and Joey tries his best to appear preoccupied with decorating and not at all like he was ogling Chandler. “Someone’s looking festive today,” Chandler quips, and Joey bumps his head on the counter trying to get a glimpse of the way Chandler’s mouth does that irresistable little pinch when he smiles. Totally worth it.

“Me?” Joey asks before realizing of fucking course it’s him; he’s pinning heart and Cupid-adorned banners to the bar. He might also be wearing red himself—total coincidence that this turtleneck just happens to be a little more snug. “Oh, yeah, we got red bagels—and cookies. And brownies!”

Chandler smiles at him, his gaze flicking momentarily to the pastry case filled with delicious color-coordinated baked goods before coming back to Joey. “I’m only interested in your coffee and cheesecake, good sir.” He stuffs his hands in his pockets, rolls up on the balls of his feet for a moment.

It bugs him when customers are ridiculously vague about their orders, but Chandler’s the only person who can get away with it. “You, uh, you want all the coffee or you wanna tell me what kind?” Joey says with a smile, partly to show that he’s teasing, and also because it’s damn near impossible to look at this guy and not smile. He’s got the kind of face Joey wants to poke at.

“Why don’t you surprise me?” Chandler says before walking off in the direction of the restroom on the other side of the café.

Phoebe waits until Chandler’s out of earshot to grab Joey and make him face her. “Joseph Francis Tribbiani, you give him your phone number right now!”

“Hey, why you middle-namin’ me?”

“Because he is so obviously flirting with you! Just give him your number and stop making sad faces.” Phoebe sort of shoves him around to the counter, and he digs out a slice of fresh cheesecake from the fridge.

“You really think he’s flirting?”

“He called you ‘good sir!’”

“Is that how dorks flirt?” Joey ought to pay more attention to Ross’s meager attempts at picking up chicks; he might learn something.

Chandler gave him free reign with today’s beverage, so Joey whips up something special and festive, as Chandler put it, blending white chocolate and mocha with raspberry syrup. It’s white and red and fluffy and disgustingly appropriate.

“Might as well go all the way, huh?” Phoebe says as he crumbles half of a red cookie on top of the whip for effect.

“I am so blaming this on you,” Joey grumbles. His heart hammers loudly in his chest, and he takes a staggering amount of care writing out his name and number on the side of the cup.

“That’s okay, nobody ever stays mad at me too long.”

Phoebe sits at the table nearest to the counter when Chandler comes back and pretends to look engrossed in a leftover newspaper. She’s not very subtle, Joey thinks; she might as well cut eye-holes in the damn thing.

“Here ya go,” Joey says, nudging Chandler’s items forward and trying not to blush too hard. He really doesn’t want his face matching the color of the decorations. He notices Chandler eyeing the cup. “It’s, uh, raspberry chocolate,” he says, hoping to distract him from the scribble on the side. This is the stupidest fucking idea he’s ever had oh God why did he do this—

The corners of Chandler’s lips quirk into a smile. “Did you—is that your phone number?”

“I’m sorry! I don’t know what I was thinkin’—It’s all Phoebe’s fault!” Joey says a little too loudly, pointing to her. Phoebe gives Chandler an acknowledging little wave.

Chandler’s face goes through a complex series of emotions.”Oh my God, really? You’re—you’re asking me out? Like on a date?”

Joey folds his arms over his chest, digs his shoe into the rug at his feet. “If you want, y’know. I thought maybe you might be...interested. Maybe if you’re really bored sometime and wanna hang out or—”

“Are you actually saying these words?” Chandler leans on the countertop, and Joey braces himself for the worst when Chandler says: “Of course I’m interested. I thought about asking you first, but I couldn’t...” He trails off, scratches the back of his neck.

Joey stares at him in wonder and feels a smile spread on his lips. “Really?”

Phoebe’s grin can probably be seen from space.

“Yeah, I—I actually thought you were with that sorta-blonde girl you were talking to the first time I came in,” Chandler admits.

“Rachel?” Joey laughs. “No, she’s—Rachel? Blecchh!” He hears Phoebe snort a laugh.

Chandler’s smile when he’s flustered is hands-down the cutest fucking thing Joey’s ever seen in his life. “Then I’ll definitely call you, Joey.” Joey likes how his name sounds on Chandler’s tongue, kind of flirty and full of promise. He wonders how it might sound when Chandler’s underneath him moaning his way through rough pushes of hips.

Chandler’s sitting in his usual spot by the time Joey snaps out of his little fantasy. Phoebe clears her throat particularly loudly, and Joey looks over at her. “You’re welcome,” she says with triumph, still pretending to read the newspaper.

“Thanks, Pheebs.”

#

Joey has a date with Chandler tonight—on Valentine’s Day, because apparently Chandler is a dork who likes that kind of thing.

Joey’s not going to tell Ross about this—though after bragging to both Monica and Rachel he’d begged them to keep his secret—because Ross will be the furthest thing from supportive; he’s already tried to cockblock Joey once in this relationship.

Chandler left the planning up to Joey—the way Chandler says “surprise me” ought to be illegal—so Joey spends the hour or so before Chandler’s supposed to meet him at his apartment flipping through the newspaper, trying to find a movie they might both agree on.

Man, there is nothing out right now that catches his interest, and nothing nerdy that Chandler might like either. The first couple months of the year seem to be horrid in terms of quality cinematic adventures. Nothing but chick flicks and children’s movies playing right now, and while Joey’s not opposed to the latter—he still sleeps with a stuffed penguin, for God’s sake—that’s really not prime first-date material.

So, no movie tonight. All the good restaurants are probably booked up too. Monica and Rachel are out at dinner somewhere fancy, Phoebe’s with Mike, so the only person Joey’s got left to call for advice is Ross.

Fuck that, Joey can do this. He’s dated plenty of times; this is where he fucking shines. Chandler’s already deemed him acceptable—the period of awkward “impress the hot guy/girl” panic is over. Now Joey gets to lay on the charm.

He’s halfway through preparing dinner when someone knocks on the door. “It’s open.”

Joey hears someone come in, then Chandler’s voice: “Joey?”

“Yeah?”

“Oh, you’re—you’re cooking. I thought we were going out.”

Joey turns around to get a good look at him, and, holy shit, how does Chandler manage to look hotter by the day? In what universe is this fair? He’s wearing jeans—Joey was beginning to think Chandler didn’t even own a pair of jeans—and a dark jacket over a t-shirt, his glasses suspiciously absent. It’s a pretty stark contrast from his usual nerd-wear, and—oh my God, there is a possibility that Chandler bought entirely new clothes for this date.

There are no words for this.

Joey lets his mouth hang slightly open for a moment before he says, “You—you look hot.”

Chandler smiles all self-conscious, looking away and rubbing the back of his neck. “You too.” He glances around the apartment. “Nice place. Is it just you?”

“Nah, I got a duck.” Joey stops stirring the pasta sauce to take a moment to realize he actually said that out loud.

“A duck?” Chandler’s mouth is doing that half-smile thing. “You have a duck?”

“Yeah. Is that weird?”

Chandler chuckles under his breath. “Depends on who you ask. I have a chick. As in, y’know, fowl, not—not women.” He laughs nervously, lets it taper off. “I, uh, I named her Yasmine.”

Joey turns his head to look at him. “Like Yasmine Bleeth?”

Chandler does an excited little jump, and Joey can’t help but smile. “Yes! I love her!”

“Not as much as I do,” Joey teases, turning back to the stove. “I hope you don’t mind stayin’ here, by the way. I just figured all the good restaurants’d be too crowded, and there’s really nothin’ good at the movies. But if you had an idea...” Joey trails off, feeling like an idiot for the apology. If Chandler had something specific in mind he would have suggested it earlier.

Chandler crosses the floor and sits on the arm of the couch. “It’s fine, really. We can always watch a movie here—you got anything good?”

“I have Die Hard,” Joey answers off the top of his head.

“Perfect!”

Okay, so Chandler might not be as much of a nerd as Joey initially thought.

They spend the evening on the couch, watching Die Hard and eating Joey’s home-cooked linguine. Joey pays more attention to Chandler than the movie—he’s seen Bruce Willis stop a terrorist attack more times than he can count, but he’s never been able to watch the way the corners of Chandler’s mouth curve into a smile—not this close, and not without it being unwelcome. Chandler’s on a date with him; he can admire that kind of stuff. Joey can memorize the way his eyes crinkle when he laughs, the way the color in Chandler’s cheeks makes him want to poke at them.

He really wants to kiss Chandler before the night is through. He’d be content with just kissing tonight. They don’t have to have sex—although, hey, that’d be awesome. But Joey wouldn’t mind holding him, running his hands over Chandler’s body, memorizing each curve and angle, discovering the way his hair feels in his fingers.

“You’re a fantastic cook,” Chandler says around a mouthful of pasta. He frowns at his bowl when he goes in for another bite and comes up empty. Joey graciously skipped out on another helping so Chandler could have a second bowl; big of him. “Oh, man, you didn’t want seconds, did you?”

Joey chuckles and takes the dish away into the kitchen. “Nah, it’s fine. But if you like my cooking, you’re gonna love dessert.” He really wishes that didn’t sound like a double entendre, but it’s not like he’s wrong on either account.

“You made dessert?” Chandler asks, peering at him over the top of the couch.

“Well, last night. But it still counts.” Joey’s grinning as he takes a freshly-made cheesecake out of the fridge.

Chandler’s eyes go wide. “Is that—”

“Your favorite.” Joey plops down on the couch with the cheesecake pan and hands Chandler a fork.

“You—you made that?”

Joey nods, gleeful. Chandler’s face right now is a thing to be treasured.

“So the whole time, it was you making the cheesecake?”

Another nod, then Joey blushes and looks away when he says, “Well, you asked for it.”

Chandler watches him for a moment, cheeks pink and his lips pulled into a tight little smile before he digs out a bite of cheesecake. “How are you even real? Y’know, I don’t even know your last name. You know mine, thanks to Ross.” Chandler sort of grumbles that last part.

“Joey Tribbiani.”

“How very Italian,” Chandler says with a smirk.

Joey spreads his hands, shrugs.

Chandler tucks a leg underneath himself, turns so his body’s facing Joey. “So, Joey Tribbiani”—God, Joey loves how his name sounds from Chandler’s lips—“you do anything else besides make amazing sweets?”

“I’m an actor,” he says proudly, opting to section off a little bite of cheesecake with his fork.

“Really? Have I seen you in anything?”

Joey bites his tongue to keep himself from saying something stupid like “your dreams.” Instead, he says, “Oh, not much, just Days of Our Lives where I played Dr. Drake Ramoray.”

Chandler mulls it over. “Nope, not ringing a bell here.”

“Really? I was voted most dateable neurosurgeon by Teen Beat.”

“Ah, see, I’m more of a Cosmo kind of guy,” Chandler says with a hint of a smirk.

Joey really should stop being surprised by Chandler at this point. “Alright, smarty-pants, what about you? You some sort of Wall Street stock genius?”

“I write for the New Yorker. It’s pretty great, considering I get paid to be funny. That’s like you being paid for, well, being hot.” Chandler is so goddamn cute when he’s flustered. Joey cannot even handle it.

“You tryin’ to flatter me, Bing?”

“No, I’m trying to get some of this cheesecake before you eat it all—Stay on your side!”

Joey looks down at the pan; he’s managed to eat almost a third of the damn thing himself, mostly because he’d skimped out on dinner for Chandler’s sake. He breathes out a laugh. “Sorry.”

Chandler just smiles, flirtatious, as he takes another bite.

They finish off the cheesecake by the end of the movie. Chandler leans on Joey’s arm while Joey flips through the channels for something else to watch, since there’s no way in hell he’s getting up to pick out another movie—Chandler’s leaning on him, damn it, and he’s going to enjoy every minute of this. Chandler is warm against his arm, tempting Joey to do something forward like put his arm around him or reach up and brush his fingers through Chandler’s hair. He doesn’t think Chandler would mind. Should he—

Fuck it, Joey’s going to just go for it.

He links his arm around Chandler’s shoulders, slow and gentle, giving Chandler time to pull away if he’s reconsidered, but he settles into the space along Joey’s body, fitting perfectly between Joey himself and his arm. Chandler’s close enough now that Joey can smell the sweet scent of his hair, the musk of his cologne, and, oh Jesus, he smells good.

Joey really wants to kiss him now. The actual idea of kissing Chandler makes his brain stop working, which is cruel and unhelpful, because he needs to think this through in the event that Chandler rejects his advance.

While Joey’s busy picturing the kiss, Chandler’s hand glides over his thigh, dangerously close to boner territory. Joey holds his breath and waits, because there’s a chance that Chandler’s just reaching across his lap for the remote or something—maybe he’d rather watch The Simpsons.

Nope, that hand’s lingered there way too long—he is officially groping Joey.

Joey takes a deep breath. This doesn’t help at all. The slight expansion of his chest makes Chandler’s hand slide a little on his thigh, and, fuck, he shouldn’t have worn these stupid tight jeans to show off his ass, because there’s no way Chandler can’t see the ridiculous bulge in his pants right now.

Why the fuck is he still thinking about this? If Chandler were a chick Joey would already have his hand up her blouse.

He turns his head to kiss him, and Chandler makes it incredibly easy for Joey by tilting his chin a bit when he looks over. Joey presses his mouth over the delicious-looking little bow of Chandler’s upper lip; he can feel the way Chandler stiffens and parts his lips so Joey can cover them with his own. Chandler breathes in a soft gasp, and Joey holds his mouth there for a moment before Chandler slides his hand between Joey’s thighs. Joey squirms, moves so his body’s facing him. Chandler lifts his hand up like he’s been burned, and Joey grabs his face so he can kiss him harder, let him know that he hasn’t done anything wrong here. His fingers curl tight in Chandler’s hair, grabbing and twisting the small spikes. Chandler moans into his mouth, and Joey feels it in his bones.

Chandler’s hands end up on Joey’s shoulder, fingers wrapped in the material of his shirt. Joey sucks a kiss into the corner of Chandler’s mouth that makes him whimper a pathetic, needy little sound. He trails his mouth along Chandler’s jaw, feels the hum of his moans when he kisses the line of his throat. Joey lays his hand over the curve of Chandler’s thigh; his skin is hot through his jeans. Chandler shifts his hips in a way that nudges Joey’s hand between his thighs. Joey rubs over the heat of his dick and hears a gasp lodge in Chandler’s throat.

“Am I movin’ too fast for ya?” Joey asks, pulling away to analyze the expression on Chandler’s face. He really hopes he didn’t fuck this up.

Chandler blinks, wets his lips, glances at his lap for a half-second. “N—no, you’re fine. This is—this is fine.” He takes a breath. “I want you to...keep going. I mean, if you want to—”

Joey smiles and stops Chandler’s verbal landslide with his mouth. Chandler does that little gasping thing again, like he’s stunned that someone could possibly want him this way—Joey can’t believe that anyone couldn’t. Chandler digs his fingers into Joey’s hair, and Joey pushes his palm against the hard line of Chandler’s cock. Chandler groans out something desperate, then his hands pull at Joey’s shirt, tugging him closer. Joey decides to make it easier for Chandler and flicks open the button of his jeans to shove his hand down the front. He drags his fingers through the trail of hair leading to Chandler’s dick, smiles when he recognizes black and yellow and the goddamn Batman symbol on his underwear.

Joey grins, and, okay, he can’t help but laugh at this. “Batman?”

Chandler looks at him, then down to where Joey’s hand is nested, and his face is a study in fucking terrified. He must have heard somewhere that laughter during sex is a sign that something’s gone horribly wrong and taken it to heart. “Oh fuck, I forgot I—I really didn’t think this was gonna happen tonight,” he stutters out, his face hot with chagrin. His teeth trap his bottom lip, which would be absolutely precious if he didn’t look like he’s going to cry.

“So, does that make me Robin, or...” Joey captures his mouth again, lets his hand slide in further to wrap around his cock. Chandler kisses him back, vibrant and appreciative, his hands wrapped around Joey’s head and pushing through his hair. It’s weird from this angle, but Joey knows his way around a dick; he strokes slow and easy, and Chandler starts moaning in a way that makes the slow burn of arousal in Joey’s blood flare up. Chandler jerks forward so the plane of his hips bumps against Joey’s wrist. Joey tugs Chandler’s jeans and underwear over his hips with his free hand, because he wants to watch this, wants to see how much Chandler wants him.

Chandler shivers as Joey loosens his fist, slides it up, and closes it again around the hilt. He fills the space between them with a gasp that Joey’s beyond wondering why he finds hot, just enjoys how fucking hard it makes him. His fingers are already sticky with pre-cum, and he pushes Chandler’s back against the couch so he can sink down, his knees on the floor, and close his mouth around Chandler’s dick. Chandler breathes in, makes a sound that goes straight to Joey’s cock, and wriggles his hips; Joey wraps his hands around them to keep him still, because he’s never actually done this before. Chandler tugs at his hair with shaky hands, and Joey loves everything about him here: the taste of Chandler in his mouth, the way his skin jumps at Joey’s touch, the soft little praises spilling out of his lips, the way he moans, “Oh God, Joe,” like he’s going to die.

Joey takes his time—the urge to swallow him deep and suck for all he’s worth is damn near impossible to resist—feels the way Chandler pulses between his lips. Chandler’s moaning out, “Joe,” and “yes,” and “please,” cut through with huffs of breath and aborted cries and grunts, and Joey wants to hear it all. He hums around Chandler’s cock, and Chandler can’t help but buck his hips into Joey’s mouth; Chandler’s so needy and open and new it makes Joey want to swallow him down. He pulls back, sucks slowly at the swollen head of his cock while he watches Chandler fall apart in an agonizing stretch, his eyes squeezed shut and his bottom lip caught between his teeth. Chandler comes, salty, thick, and messy and hot on his tongue, and Joey doesn’t even mind that half of it’s smeared over his mouth and dripping down his chin. He’s past the point of wondering why this turns him on. Joey licks him clean, wipes his own mouth with the back of his hand and tastes him there.

“I guess I like extra cream too,” Joey breathes out with a chuckle.

Chandler’s still lost in the post-orgasm bliss, but he’s got enough sense to look judgemental about that. “That was a horrible joke, but I’m gonna forgive you because that was a amazing blowjob.”

Joey tries not to grin too proudly under the look of awe Chandler’s giving him. “Yeah? I bet you’re a real blowjob connoisseur, huh?” he teases as he climbs back up Chandler’s body to kiss his mouth. He wonders if Chandler tastes himself on his lips, wonders if he likes it as much as Joey likes thinking about it.

“Well, if you think so...” Chandler says, and Joey just has to kiss the corners of his mouth where joy rounds his cheeks. Chandler’s mouth is the most beautiful thing Joey’s ever seen; he almost doesn’t want to defile it with his dick. Almost. Joey’s sitting in Chandler’s lap, and Chandler strokes a hand over his thigh, curious and wanting. Joey glances down, very aware of his own erection right now. “You’re, um, you’re—you’re hard,” Chandler observes, his voice a little breathy.

Joey opens his mouth to ask how the hell Chandler could possibly know this before he remembers that his dick’s being showcased in these stupid jeans. So he just says, “Yeah.”

Chandler licks his lips, flicks his gaze up to Joey, then back down to the swell of his cock. “Are you, uh, always hard, or...?”

“Maybe you got an effect on me, Bing.”

Chandler’s mouth does that crooked smile thing, and his laugh is just as endearing. “I did that?” he asks, pointing to Joey’s cock. “Wow, I’ve never—I’ve never made a guy hard before, not that I know of, but—Man, I’m knocking out a whole bunch of firsts tonight!”

“You’ve never...?” Joey tries very hard not to glance down between them. Instead, he just makes vague hand gestures to illustrate his point.

It takes Chandler a moment to understand the non-verbal communication. “Oh, uh, not with, y’know, a guy,” he mumbles. “I’m sure you can figure out the others.”

“Sounds like we’re in the same boat, huh?”

“Really?” Chandler looks way too surprised by this.

“I’ve never even asked another guy out before you showed up.” He’s not ashamed or embarrassed to admit it, because something about Chandler makes him feel safe, like he can tell him anything—even the stupidest joke—and not be rejected. And maybe Chandler feels that way about him too.

Chandler laughs, but it’s a soft, airy sound that makes his eyes light up with life and vibrance. “What’s so special about me?” He asks it like he can’t even comprehend the hundreds of ways that he’s enchanted Joey simply by existing.

“Everything,” Joey says, kissing the little freckle on Chandler’s cheek and giving absolutely zero fucks about how corny that sounds.